Today, I was privileged to be the first American Secretary of State to visit Somalia. I met with your government leaders and civil society representatives. But I also wanted to take the opportunity to talk to you, the people of Somalia.
More than 20 years ago, the United States was forced to pull back from your country. Now we are returning in collaboration with the international community and bearing high hopes but also mixed with ongoing concerns.
My brief visit confirmed what our diplomats have been telling me: That Somalis are resilient and determined to reclaim your country and your future from the terrorists and militia groups that have been attempting to steal it.
Over the past quarter century, you have known immense suffering from violence, from criminals, from sectarian strife, from dire shortages of food, and from an inability to remain safely even within your villages and homes.
In Kenya yesterday, I spoke with refugees from Dadaab who had fled their homes for protection from persecution, fear, and war. I met Somalis who are fifteen, eighteen, twenty years old who have never lived anywhere except a refugee camp; this in an era of unprecedented globalization.
But I visited Somalia today because your country is turning around. Three years have passed since a new provisional constitution was adopted and a parliament sworn in. With help from AMISOM, Somali forces have pushed al-Shaabab out of major population centers. A determined international effort has put virtually all of Somalia’s pirates out of business.
Most of the credit goes to you, the people of Somalia. Because of you, new life has returned to the streets of Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa, and Garowe, and elsewhere. New businesses have opened and diaspora communities are returning to take advantage of new economic opportunities and to help rebuild their country.
Of course, much work remains to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for your country. We understand that. And during my discussions with your leaders today, I focused on the next steps that must be taken on Vision 2016 to advance Somalia’s development as a unified, federal state.
The federal government is now working with the new regional administrations to enhance stability and sow the seeds of prosperity in every part of Somalia. That includes finding the right balance of authorities and responsibilities between the national, regional, and local levels. And I look forward to seeing progress soon on integrating regional forces into the Somali National Army so that we can broaden our security assistance to those forces.
The government is also working toward finalizing the constitution and holding democratic elections in 2016. You – all of you – must have a voice in this process. Your leaders reaffirmed to me today that they are committed to making progress on these issues and to ensuring that there is broad consensus on how the constitutional review and elections will proceed.
We all have a stake in your success. The world cannot afford to have places on the map that are essentially ungoverned. That is why Somalia’s return to effective government is an historic opportunity.
In recognition of the progress made and the promise to come, I am pleased to announce that the United States will begin the process of establishing the premises for a diplomatic mission in Mogadishu. While we do not yet have a fixed timeline for reopening the embassy, we are upgrading our diplomatic representation. Pending confirmation by the Senate, a career diplomat will lead this effort as our first ambassador to Somalia since we closed our mission in January of 1991. And I look forward, as does the President, to the day when both the United States and Somalia have full-fledged missions in each other’s capital city.
I look forward, as well, to the time when we can say – and all the world can see and measure – that this country is fully united, combining regional strengths with national purpose, able to welcome its refugees home, and secure in a new Somalia that occupies an honored place on the regional and global stage for many generations to come.
That is a job that only you, the Somali people, can accomplish. But along with many other international partners, the United States is prepared to do whatever we can to help Somalia get the security, the prosperity, and the peace that you deserve. Thank you all.